S01E08 – Andrew Bloch

Andrew Bloch, founder and managing partner of iconic and multi-award-winning agency, Frank, joins Brendon and Zoe in the studio to chat about creativity, the power of ‘talkability’ and working with amazing brands like gaming giant Call of Duty, as well as orchestrating cult campaigns like Compare The Meerkat

Andrew reveals why he still believes in the enduring power of the “big idea”; discusses the ever-blurring lines of the industry; the importance of being present in the moment with family; why you’re still only as good as your last campaign and why, when it comes to keeping an agency on the radar and feeling fresh 18 years later, it all comes down to the work.

Part journey, part wisdom and part future-gazing; join us for a fascinating episode with one of the comms world’s greats.

Transcript:

Zoe Clark: Hi, and welcome to Without Borders. Today, Brendon and I are chatting to Andrew Bloch, who’s the founder and managing partner of iconic and multi award winning agency, Frank.

Brendon Craigie: Hi, this is Brendon Craigie, and on this episode, Andrew Bloch is going to be talking about creativity, talkability, working with amazing brands like Call of Duty, Compare the Meerkat, and what it takes to stay fresh 18 years on.

Brendon Craigie: Are you just spectating at the football? Or do you have like a management role there?

Andrew Bloch: I have no role at all.

Brendon Craigie: No.

Andrew Bloch: Just a taxi driver.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah, excellent.

Zoe Clark: Chief cheerer.

Brendon Craigie: One of your children competes at a pretty high level, don’t they?

Andrew Bloch: Yeah. So it’s good, so yeah, he just finished a tournament in LA which they won, which is brilliant and now he’s got into the GB team for the European Games.

Zoe Clark: Wow.

Andrew Bloch: Yeah it’s brilliant. So I’m like living my life vicariously. All the shit football that I’ve played over the years, he’s a million times better than me. So-

Brendon Craigie: Brilliant. That’s amazing.

Andrew Bloch: Yeah. It’s good. First session tonight, so yeah it’s brilliant.

Zoe Clark: Great okay so Andrew tell us how’s it going at Frank? How … what’s it like to have a business that’s 18 years old?

Andrew Bloch: Feels weird. I mean I don’t feel old enough to have a business that’s 18 years. And I guess one of the nice things, it still feels fresh and young. I just pinch myself that it’s been 18 years. Which I think is a good thing.

Zoe Clark: Definitely a good thing. How on earth do you manage to keep it feeling fresh and young then, with all these new hot-shot PR agencies entering the market hot on the heels of you guys?

Andrew Bloch: It’s a good question. I mean I think it’s the work. As long as you keep doing good work that gets noticed. It’s a bit of a cliché but you’re only as good as your last campaign. And it’s definitely the work that keeps you on the radar and keeps you relatively fresh. And there’s always new exciting agencies that are coming onto the scene. And I think you know, it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for the industry. It keeps us on our toes. You can never be complacent in this game. So yeah, I think that’s what keeps us fresh.

Brendon Craigie: And what do you think gives agencies the edge today Andrew? Like you know, where does the edge come from?

Andrew Bloch: It’s tougher and tougher. I mean I would say there is an over supply of agencies in the market. Perhaps more so than ever. And it’s tougher than it’s ever been to get noticed, to get a piece of the pie.

Andrew Bloch: So really the quality of the work has to be there, just going back to the work again. You know, it’s one thing to get your name out there and to create a bit of hype, but you need some substance behind it as well.

Andrew Bloch: And Frank’s always worked hard to be high profile, to have a decent brand. But the thing that always keeps me awake at night is you know, what’s our next great campaign? What’s the thing that’s going to win the award? What’s the the thing that’s going to attract the next client, the best talent? And the agencies that are doing best out there, are the agencies that are doing that year-in, year-out consistently.

Zoe Clark: Absolutely. And we know you’re a big advocate of the Big Idea in PR still. But we can definitely explore that a bit.

Zoe Clark: But before we do, perhaps do you have any particular campaigns that have always stuck with you? Any particular favorites you’ve worked on? I know you’ve worked for some brilliant brands.

Andrew Bloch: Frank campaigns? Oh, there’s been so many over the years. And you always tend to think most fondly of the most recent ones. But when we were … so we were 18 a couple of weeks ago and had a moment of reflection. And you look back at all the stuff that you’ve done over the years. And I mean there’s been lots of favorites. I mean I still love to this day all the work we did for Call of Duty. I love the work we did for Compare the Meerkat. Probably one of our most famous campaigns.

Andrew Bloch: I look really fondly back at work we did I mean coming up to sort of 17 years ago for Brylcreem. That was our first big client to sort of have faith in us as an agency, give us a break.

Andrew Bloch: I love the work that we’ve done for Lord Sugar and all his various companies and apprentices over the years.

Andrew Bloch: And there’s been lots more in between. I mean I kind of have a bit of an encyclopedic-

Zoe Clark: Absolutely.

Andrew Bloch: -cuts to all the stuff we’ve done. But you have to stop occasionally and reflect, and think blimey. And I never … I always feel quite humbled that famous and big-name brands have found you and come to you. And then have the confidence to select you.

Andrew Bloch: So I never take it for granted. And I think the most amazing thing when I look back over time is just the vast array of globally famous brands that we’ve had a part to play in their PR. It’s just … it never ceases to amaze me. It’s incredible.

Brendon Craigie: And is it fair to say when you think you reflect on those campaigns, obviously I imagine that what makes a great campaign is it needs to be like executed incredibly well.

Brendon Craigie: But presumably the difference between an average campaign and a great campaign, other than the execution, does come down to the quality of the thinking, and the idea. And how do you sort of campaign after campaign, keep coming up with great ideas? You know, what’s your approach to coming up with great ideas?

Andrew Bloch: So the ethos of the agency has always been centered around this word talkability. Which we define as the buzz that takes over and does your best marketing for you. And really what we’re always trying to do with any campaign is to generate word-of-mouth, whether that’s kind of in the real world round the pub, round the water cooler, or more likely nowadays online via social media and various forms of content.

Andrew Bloch: And we have a proprietary process, creative process. Which looks at the different triggers to what leads to creating talkability. So we always start our creative process by playing around with these five different triggers. And that’s how we get to our ideas. And you know, the second part of that process is the makeability. And what does it take to make a story in the media. To make a story go viral and spread.

Andrew Bloch: And that bit is really down to the execution. And sometimes you know, anyone who works within an agency will appreciate this and relate to it. You can have ideas that are brilliant, or you think are brilliant, but they don’t quite fulfill their potential. And one of the things that we’re hot on is really that I guess like a relentlessness to make sure that where there’s an idea that has potential, that it fulfills that potential; does the best that it can possibly be.

Andrew Bloch: And you know, nowadays in this world of digital and modern-day media, it’s not just relying on earned media. Obviously it’s very important to have a good creative idea that has that potential to spread on its own. But it’s about making sure you give the idea its maximum opportunity to reach the biggest audience. And that can be about sort of looking at SEO, looking at paid. All the various kind of means at your disposal to ensure that an idea gets out there and does as well as it possibly can do.

Brendon Craigie: And am I right in thinking, have you sort of like slightly changed your positioning in a way? Just publicly in terms of like how you use the term PR in your positioning. As in do you still think that’s a helpful way to describe yourself, or …?

Andrew Bloch: I think I mean PR has always been a really difficult thing to describe. I still struggle you know, 25-odd years into it, to explain what we do. And we haven’t had a repositioning.

Andrew Bloch: I mean maybe we have. We’ve had I guess a bit of a refresh. And I think you know, one of the challenges with the term PR is the perception that PR is all about media relations.

Brendon Craigie: Mm-hmm (affirmative) yeah.

Andrew Bloch: And for us, media relations is still a massive part of what we do. I think it will continue to be. But it’s so much more than that. And I think any agency that is just stuck in that media relations section is going to struggle. You know, it needs to be more.

Andrew Bloch: So we dropped the PR from Frank. We looked at the definition of talkability. And as I say, you know, when we started out 18 years ago, talkability was very much you know, as what I call the black taxi driver test. You know, if you get in the back of a cab and the taxi driver, “Oh mate, did you see that?” You know, that’s what it was all about. And now it’s so much more than that. It’s all the different ways that you can create word of mouth.

Andrew Bloch: So we just sort of looked at our offering, and have refreshed it, and made it a little bit more relevant. But actually the core of it is exactly the same as it always was from the very first day that we started out.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah. It is about sort of thinking about those ideas and then thinking about all the different possible channels that you can bring them to life.

Andrew Bloch: That’s right. And the idea sits right in the middle. You know, without a great idea, that’s got to be your starting point. And I think the advantage that PR agencies have over other disciplines is they understand what works from an earned point of view.

Andrew Bloch: So you know, you can have a shit idea and put all the money in the world behind it, and make it work. But actually if your idea is stronger to start with, you’re not going to need to put so much spend behind it. You can be a bit more intelligent about how you generate a return on investment for an idea.

Brendon Craigie: I mean I always … I agree, I always sort of think that where I’m a massive advocate of that sort of media component of what we do, is that you know, one of our mantras is sort of contribute, don’t pollute. You know, because I think anyone can create content today. And you know, like anyone, it’s like an arms race, and everyone’s trying to create as much content as possible. But there’s a lot of really crap content out there.

Brendon Craigie: And what I think’s quite exciting is that in working with the media as a component of what we do, you know, it’s a great filter on the quality of your idea. Because if someone is not being paid to write about your client or your idea, and they choose to do so, it’s sort of an endorsement of the strength of it. Whereas if you’re not going down that earned media route at all, you’re sort of you know, you don’t really have that bar to jump over.

Andrew Bloch: No I think that’s exactly right. And there’s so much media out there that consumers are just bombarded with commercial messaging. And we talk about bullshit buffers. And consumers have kind of almost adapted and got into the habit of just tuning out. It’s just white noise. And in order to penetrate those bullshit buffers you’ve got to have an idea that resonates with them and grabs their attention. Makes them sit up.

Andrew Bloch: And it is a good starting point, because it forces you to be creative in the way that you craft an idea, and come up with a campaign. And just because there’s media out there, and lots of outlets for content, as you say you know, you don’t need to sort of just arm up and fire blanks. You need to fire stuff that’s actually going to make a difference.

Brendon Craigie: And I guess you know, as part of this whole journey and you know, what makes our … well I guess what really what makes our life so fun, is working with clients. And I’m guessing over the years that you’ve worked with great clients. And then you’ve worked with more challenging clients.

Brendon Craigie: In your opinion, what makes a great client you know, from a relationship standpoint? And you know, if you were to you know, maybe you know, what makes a really terrible client?

Andrew Bloch: It’s funny really. I think in a way you select, self-select your own clients. And your clients select you. I think one of the things about Frank is having the name Frank above the door gives you the license to be open and honest and talk to people in a down-to-earth way. And we’re slightly non conventional in our approach.

Andrew Bloch: And I think that attracts a certain type of client. And for me, a good client is someone that will work with you, trust you. Will take risks. You know, it’s all very well having great ideas, but if a client doesn’t believe in you to execute it to the way that you think it has the best possible potential, then it’s always going to limit the potential of what you’re able to achieve.

Andrew Bloch: So we are lucky to have good clients. And funnily enough, don’t have that many bad clients, because we don’t normally get to that stage. We have plenty of you know, I’m sure like you, we’re pitching day-in, day-out. And you know, often we will get feedback, “We’re not quite ready for you yet.” Or, “That’s great. Maybe in a year we’re come to you.” Or, “We think that’s a bit too out there for what we’re trying to achieve.” And you kind of knock out the clients that aren’t right for you, before you begin.

Andrew Bloch: Generally when we sign up with a client they’ve almost bought into you already, and you know the relationship’s going to work. And then we’ve always had the philosophy that, it’s very clichéd, but you have to work as partners. And the trick to a good client relationship is when you’re not perceived as the supplier, but you’re seen as someone that works with them.

Andrew Bloch: And you know, from a personal point of view, I’ll always try and get inside a client’s head, in terms of what their motivations are. And they’re often quite different. You know, sometimes they’re trying to make their mark within an organization. Sometimes they’re … they want the award. Sometimes they’re not that fussed, and just want an easy life.

Andrew Bloch: And once you understand what it is that motivates a client and makes them tick, then you can start to adapt what you’re doing and the type of work you’re doing, so it suits them. And you know, yeah, of course I mean this game would be very easy if you didn’t have clients, but it doesn’t work like that.

Zoe Clark: What do you make of the pitch process in PR, and maybe the competitive pitch process as well? Is it working? Do you do much competitive pitching? Does it not get that far? Do you not need to?

Andrew Bloch: No we do do a lot of competitive pitching. It’s … I don’t know, the pitch game is funny. You know, it’s part of what we have to do. I think we all love it, and hate it. When it’s a good pitch process and it’s run fairly, there’s nothing better. That adrenaline of going up against your competitors and all doing your best and someone wins it. At the end it is a great feeling.

Andrew Bloch: I think it’s I don’t know. The trend that I’m kind of sensing at the moment is what’s happened in the whole marketing world is disciplines have merged in terms of their capabilities. So you will now get media agencies saying that they can do PR. Ad agencies with PR divisions. PR agencies saying they can make ads.

Andrew Bloch: And it presents a huge opportunity. But I think from a client perspective, it’s become a little bit more confusing. It’s not so compartmentalized as it was even a couple of years ago.

Andrew Bloch: What we’re starting to see, and I don’t know whether it’s a trend that will continue, or just a blip, is actually the biggest growth within our agency is where we’re in with a client, we know them well, and we can demonstrate our capabilities across lots of different areas.

Andrew Bloch: And for clients because they’ve got everyone telling them that they can do everything, actually what’s becoming more and more important for them, is to work with fewer agencies that they trust. Because they just don’t know quite who to turn to.

Andrew Bloch: And as I say, it’s only something that I’ve noticed relatively recently. But we’re seeing slightly fewer kind of … We’ve never really done anything on the pro-active new business side. We’ve always been fortunate enough to have a good reputation. People know what we stand for, and clients come to us.

Andrew Bloch: And we are still getting that. But I’m starting to see a bit of a switch towards where we haven’t been particularly strong in recent years is organic growth. And really working our existing clients to look at all the various areas that we could potentially help them with their business.

Andrew Bloch: And that’s been an area that we’re seeing the most growth, where we’ve got great clients that really like us and what we do. And they’re saying to us, “Oh look, we’ve got this problem or challenge or opportunity. Do you think it’s something that you could do?” And it wouldn’t necessarily be areas that we would normally be getting those opportunities from an incoming point of view.

Andrew Bloch: So it is starting to shift a little bit, maybe. It places importance on you know, really working the clients you’ve got hard. And making sure you do a good job. Because now those opportunities to expand the business you know, beyond the traditional PR and media relations are huge, if you get it right.

Brendon Craigie: No I agree. I mean we’ve sort of set ourselves up around this you know, positioning around PR Without Borders. Which is about … it’s two things. One having sort of a geographically spread team across Europe. But also you know, recognizing that the lines between PR and marketing are very blurred. And being very comfortable operating in those blurry lines. And sort of assembling quite a multi-disciplinary team. And I think we’ve definitely gone down the route of having fewer client relationships, but really investing in those relationships, and doing a much broader mix of stuff.

Brendon Craigie: And interestingly part of the things that … one of the things that we’re doing is we’re not doing competitive pitches. And we just sort of … we’re sort of waiting for a bit like you were saying about the self-selecting client relationship. We’re waiting for the people that we sort of instantly connect with. They’ve got a problem that we know we can help with. You know, and they sort of buy into us and what we can do.

Brendon Craigie: And we’ll obviously develop plans, proposals and things, but we’re tending to sort of step away from those pitch processes. Because often I don’t think they serve clients. Because you know, people create sort of like a semi artificial situation. And just by virtue of the fact that agencies … it’s really a process about winning that competition, rather than always necessarily coming up with the proper business solution for the client’s problem.

Brendon Craigie: That’s what you know, that’s sort of what we’ve felt. And so rather than invest in four prospective clients, and do four pitches, we’ll find the one that we really like and that really likes us. And then we’ll you know, seriously invest in developing a great plan, a great proposal.

Brendon Craigie: Which means that we can do a better job on that. But it also means that when we’re not doing that, we’re you know, able to focus even more on our clients. And I think we’re obviously a little bit smaller, so we can … we’ve got the luxury of being able to sort of pick and choose things. But so far, it seems to be working well for us.

Andrew Bloch: No I’m pleased. I mean it’s great. And it’s … Look personally I’ve always found it really tough to turn down business. You know, not obviously if it’s a kind of shitty opportunity that you know’s got no chance, then fine. But you know, sometimes we are faced with just so much new business opportunity, that you kind of know the sensible thing to do is go for one and not go for two at the same time.

Andrew Bloch: But you know, it’s not a greed thing. But it’s I don’t know, I just find it really hard to when you’ve got an opportunity. What we do try and do is suss out what the process is. And you know, all the basics. If they’re seeing seven or eight agencies, or they don’t want to see you face-to-face. Or these kind of things. Then you start to-

Brendon Craigie: You smell a rat.

Andrew Bloch: No. But when a process is run well, which you know, to be fair most of them are. And from the outside in, it looks like you’ve got an evens chance of winning it, it’s really difficult to turn down stuff.

Andrew Bloch: But again you know, like you’re saying, we do … we are placing more and more importance on focusing on the right things. As you say, doing a good job for clients. It’s always been important. But it’s probably now more important than it ever has been.

Andrew Bloch: So we’ll always try and focus on that. You know, PR is a bit of a juggling game. And it’s trying to keep all the balls in the air and not let anything drop. And the best PR companies, the best PR people are the ones that can juggle the most balls without letting anything drop. But it’s a skill that is pretty hard to master. And I’m not sure you ever master it. You just get better at-

Zoe Clark: You just keep juggling. Yeah.

Andrew Bloch: You just keep juggling. Keep throwing those balls in the air, and hope that none of them fall on the floor. But you’ll get it wrong from time to time. [inaudible 00:22:48] not to think experience makes you better at making the right decisions. But I look back on every year when we do our review of the year, and we’ve made mistakes. I mean it’s inevitable you make bad decisions.

Andrew Bloch: But I’d like to think our judgment get better and better. And whether it does or not I don’t know.

Zoe Clark: And are there any particular mishaps that you’re happy to share, that you’ve maybe learned from? That have taught you something as the agency’s grown?

Andrew Bloch: Where do I start? No I mean there’s learnings every day really. I mean thats the amazing thing about this industry and this job, is you never stand still. And you never get bored. And every client comes with a different challenge and a different job in hand.

Andrew Bloch: You know, we’ve made mistakes over the years. Perhaps biting off more than we can chew. Perhaps trying to focus on too many things at one time. But we’ve been fortunate that we you know, haven had any sort of body blows that have floored us. They’ve always been learnings.

Andrew Bloch: But the thing I tend to find you know, we’re pretty rigorous in terms of our process of evaluating and reviewing the previous year, and looking at what’s been good and what hasn’t. And you know, one year we’ll have a brilliant year for retention. But our staff turnover’s been to high. Then the next year we’ve sorted out the staff churn, but we’ve lost too many clients.

Andrew Bloch: And it does tend to be get this kind of roller coaster over the years where you know, all I really need to do is get everything right at the same time, we’d be laughing. But it just doesn’t seem to be as simple as that.

Andrew Bloch: But everything, you know, even the bad bits are still manageable. And it’s just trying to get everything right at the same time. That is the ongoing challenge of any good agency. And however great you are, however good your people are, you’re always going to be faced with challenges. And it’s how you fight them and overcome them and not let them be too damaging or too detrimental, that ultimately gives you that longevity and allows you to continue.

Zoe Clark: Yeah. And how about you getting to the point where you’ve got four offices now, if I’m right; in London, Manchester, Glasgow and on the other side of the world in Sydney. How did you come to have offices in those places? Was it luck or not luck, but was there much careful planning? Or was it happy accident?

Andrew Bloch: So well Australia came about we had a girl who worked for us who was Australian, who was … basically wanted to go home. And she was very very good. And we just thought you know what, why don’t we see if she can have a go at Frank in Australia? That was how that started. And that’s been going I think about 12 years. Doing really really well. And actually great fun to work with; it’s a lovely market.

Andrew Bloch: Manchester again, similar sort of reason. We had a guy who was from Manchester. Came to London, thought the streets were going to be paved with gold. And didn’t really like the big city. Wanted to go home. And that was our opportunity to set up in Manchester.

Andrew Bloch: But one of the things that wasn’t deliberate, but we realized quite quickly was having a team that was based out of Manchester gave us a real diversity in terms of the way that people thought. And [inaudible 00:26:29] a lot about diversity in the industry. But actually one of the things I’ve always felt is that you can live in London and be in this bit of a London bubble. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re male, female, black, white, Chinese. You just tend to think in a quite London-centric way.

Andrew Bloch: And what we started to see quite early on. And as I say, it was accidental. This wasn’t the reason for doing it. But the Mancs sort of thought in a slightly different way. And were giving us a different take on ideas. A bit of a reality check in terms of what would resonate with the mass market.

Andrew Bloch: And that’s been great. And actually the guy who was heading up Manchester has been made Creative Director of the whole group. And it’s been brilliant for us creatively. It’s really taken the level we think to a different stage, and a different type of thinking. So that’s been really good.

Andrew Bloch: And then Glasgow was really an extension of that. The idea with these offices was never to service local clients. Although they do attract local clients. It was really just to have different teams in different parts of the country.

Andrew Bloch: As you say you know, your working Without Borders. It’s really a form of doing that. And nowadays you know, the clients that we service out of those offices can be anywhere in the world, let alone the UK. It’s become less and less relevant where someone’s based. And that’s worked to our advantage.

Brendon Craigie: I was going to say, I think that whole diversity piece is something that we did feel very strongly about. And you know, in terms of what you’re saying from a creativity standpoint. Because you know, it’s scary to think how many campaigns that are rolled out across the UK for instance, or even wider, originate from you know, a small part of London.

Brendon Craigie: Like how many ideas actually come out of Shoreditch and then they’re sort of then brands build their whole thinking around a group of people who think very similarly. And you know, Shoreditch isn’t representative of London, London’s not representative of the UK.

Brendon Craigie: So I definitely think more and more people are going to appreciate the need for that diversity of perspective in order to come up the best and most effective ideas.

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Andrew Bloch: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Totally agree.

Zoe Clark: And how have you managed to maintain the brand and the feeling and the culture at Frank, operating across different cities?

Andrew Bloch: Quite easily. And I don’t really know why, or how. But I think people often ask me you know, what is a Frank person? What does it take to be a Frank person? And it took us quite a long time to sort of figure that out, and articulate it. And really I think a Frank person’s someone that is just himself. And is working in this environment and feels that they can be themselves without having to fit into any stereotype, or try to be someone that they’re not.

Andrew Bloch: And that’s something that we’ve really tried to keep alive in all of the offices. I mean, actually you know, Brendon I know you know this, but it’s not that difficult to stay in touch and communicate with people, just because they might be well, in Australia’s case, on the other side of the world. But in Manchester or Glasgow you know, a few hundred miles-

Brendon Craigie: Yep.

Andrew Bloch: -up the country.

Andrew Bloch: But you know, we travel a lot, we talk a lot via various means of technology. We do lots of cross-agency training. And actually what you know, pleases me immensely is walking into any one of those offices doesn’t feel any different to being in London. They have the same look and feel. The people are similar mind set. Whenever we do our company away days at summer or Christmas, everyone just gets on as one. It’s not a cliquey sort of environment. And it’s been a lot lot easier than maybe it should be.

Andrew Bloch: We’ve deliberately always made the decision to be in English speaking places. I think I would personally find it much more challenging to try and have a Frank brand in France or Germany or wherever it might be. So maybe language has something to do with it.

Andrew Bloch: But, having said that, we did try and make a success of the US, and really what we learned is although we speak the same language, we are so different to the Americans. And we really struggled to get the Frank ethos and way of working to work in that market. It just, they just didn’t get it. They didn’t get sense of humor, the irony, the creative aspect of it. I mean there was other challenges as well, but the thing that really struck me is up until the point where we opened our doors in New York, I always thought how difficult can it be? You know, how different are they?

Andrew Bloch: But you only have to look at the history of fantastic PR companies that have failed to make it in America to realize maybe we were a bit naïve to think that we would be any different.

Andrew Bloch: And it wasn’t a disaster for us. We never lost any money. But we were after a couple of years of doing it, it was just a distraction. And we were struggling to grow it, and couldn’t grow it really. And we just made the decision you know what? There’s actually much more opportunity for us in the areas where we already are. This is proving to be a bit of a pain in the backside. Let’s call it a day. And we did.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Zoe Clark: Well it’s got to be fun at the end of the day. And if you’re struggling that much, and it’s proving a pain, then [crosstalk 00:32:26]

Andrew Bloch: Yeah. I mean it was you know, once the initial thrill of flying to New York every few weeks wore off which it did quickly.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Andrew Bloch: But clearly Brendon I know you [inaudible 00:32:36] the same. You know, then you kind of think what am I doing? It’s like … It’s just hard work. And actually there’s so much opportunity on our doorstep. We’ll be better off concentrating on that. And that’s what we did.

Andrew Bloch: And there was … it was quite a hard thing to make that decision. Partly from an ego point of view. You know, we’d been very fortunate with Frank that nothing we’d ever done had failed. And we were … everything we did worked. And, all of a sudden we had this thing that we just couldn’t get to work. And I felt for a long time, oh I feel like just don’t want to shut it. It’s like an outward sign of failure. Then you kind of realize well it’s not [crosstalk 00:33:12] Well look it, maybe it was, but you know, we gave it a go. And-

Brendon Craigie: It’s okay to fail, isn’t it?

Andrew Bloch: Yeah it was. I mean I wish we maybe did it six months earlier. You know, I don’t know. We gave it a decent shot. But it did feel a bit like you know, you were at the roulette table, keep putting chips down, keep putting chips down, hoping they’re going to come in one day. And we were so close to breaking it.

Andrew Bloch: And the thing about Americans that I learned from my experience was you could never really get honest feedback. So you’d do pitches, we were having these amazing opportunities. And every time they were like, “We love you guys.” And we were getting like rounds of applause and standing ovations.

Andrew Bloch: And then, all of a sudden they’d just go quiet. And then they’d say they’re not going to appoint you. But they would never tell you anything negative. So it was really hard. It took a long time to sort of learn and just realize you know what? We’re just … The Frank brand isn’t right for this market, at this moment in time. Maybe if we’d have done it in a different way, it could’ve worked, but looking back, I don’t regret trying to do it. And I don’t regret that we made the collective decision to call it a day after a couple of years.

Brendon Craigie: And what about you Andrew, in terms of so Frank’s obviously been going for 18 years. You’ve obviously been there all that time. How have you … how do you think you’ve changed as a person over those 18 years?

Andrew Bloch: Oh God. That’s a good question. I don’t know. I don’t know. When I started on day one, probably didn’t feel like I was ready to do it. And, to a certain extent, I don’t know if I am today. I mean I think I have changed. You don’t start an agency and … or I certainly didn’t start when I started with Graham all those years ago kind of think ahead 18 years to what it might be. You just kind of, it’s almost like survival. Like let’s just give it a go and see what happens, and if we don’t, what’s the worst that can happen?

Andrew Bloch: Now you know, obviously I’ve got the confidence of a track record of what we’ve achieved over the years. But I think the thing that keeps you going, or certainly for me, is the challenges are always there. And they change. And they’re different sorts of challenges. And PR today is pretty much unrecognizable from where it was when we started.

Andrew Bloch: But the principles of it are the same. The things I loved about it from day one are still the same. But the evolution of technology, and the way clients buy services, and all the stuff we’ve been talking about, change I mean at what feels like a rapid pace. You never have time to get bored. It never feels like … you know, I’ve got friends who have been banking and law. And you know, had very successful careers. But ultimately, they’ve been doing the same thing every day of their life since the day they started.

Andrew Bloch: And they’re just bored and fed up. And I’ve never really felt that. Which is quite annoying to my friends.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah it’s great to love your job, isn’t it? I you know, I’ve always yeah, really loved my job. And being have probably the enthusiasm of a teenager.

Andrew Bloch: But you know, it’s quite rare. And you know, actually my brother worked in an industry and, after a few years, got out of that industry, and went into a different profession, which he’s doing really well in, and loves. And he turned round to me and he said, “You know, when you used to say to me you love your job, I just thought you were a bit of a tosser and didn’t believe you. And just thought it was impossible. How can you love your job? And now I get what you mean. I’ve found my calling and I feel the same as you.”

Andrew Bloch: And I do. I mean look, it’s not … I don’t skip into work every day and whistle my way through the day. You have good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks. But ultimately I do feel privileged to a) have found a profession that I like, and b) somehow found something I seem to be okay at.

Andrew Bloch: You know, that’s a really nice place to be. But you can’t … there’s not that many people that do feel that way.

Brendon Craigie: And so as you obviously get a lot of satisfaction from work, which I can identify with. And hanging out with you know, cool people and interesting people. What do you do outside of work, for fun?

Andrew Bloch: Nothing. It’s all work.

Brendon Craigie: Is it?

Andrew Bloch: No. Joking.

Andrew Bloch: I’ve always been a big advocate of trying to switch off. I don’t necessarily think I’m the best person doing it. But it’s important to have boundaries between work and your social life. And in all honesty, the thing that’s given me the biggest perspective and work/life balance was having kids. And you know, you have kids and all of a sudden you’re not your own priority in life. You have other people that you put first. And my greatest pleasure is you know, being with my kids, and watching them play football. Seeing them go through school, and you know, dealing with all the stuff that you have to deal with with kids. And that’s a big part of my life.

Andrew Bloch: And then you know, I’ve got my other sort of passions and interests. It is a hard profession to … it’s not a nine to five job. And I don’t think it ever, ever will be. And I always prided myself in being responsive to clients and to staff, and to anyone who needs me. I’ll always answer my phone any time of the day or night, any day of the week. And I don’t think that part of me will ever change.

Andrew Bloch: But it’s about realizing that there is a reason why you work, and there is life outside work. And trying to make sure you’re respectful to your wife, your family, and not putting them as second-best after work. Which you know, I’ve got it wrong on numerous occasions. But I’ll always try and make sure that when I go through the door, I put work behind me. And even though I will check in and do what I need to do, they’re my number one priority.

Brendon Craigie: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Zoe Clark: Great well I think we should probably let you get back to those people as a priority in a second. But just before we do, we have got one last question, which is about our location agnostic setup in fact. And the fact that we believe so strongly in working with agility and not really being constrained by any boundaries, or any office space particularly.

Zoe Clark: So we just wondered if you could work anywhere, or if you could work to any particular setup or what have you, where would your desert island desk be?

Andrew Bloch: Mm-hmm (affirmative) good question. Unfortunately all the places that I really love are probably not the best locations to have PR agencies. And often you know, you go on holiday and you have a great time, and you think to yourself oh you know, maybe I could open an office here. That would be quite fun.

Andrew Bloch: And then you realize the whole reason why you liked that place is because it’s very different to your normal working environment.

Andrew Bloch: But I love America. All bits of America, despite my New York story previously. And definitely if there was an opportunity to live out there at some point, would be high up on my list.

Andrew Bloch: And then yeah, probably most of the other places I like in the world aren’t that suitable, because they aren’t really the kind of PR capitals of the world. So [crosstalk 00:40:35]

Brendon Craigie: And where in America?

Andrew Bloch: Where in America? I really like Miami. Just very kind of laid back. Like the people. I love the food. Love the climate.

Andrew Bloch: But it’s very slow. You know, that’s why I like it, because it’s a place to unwind, and the pace is just not there. And that’s why I’m not sure that even if there was a PR market I’d be able to motivate myself to get up to the pace required. You know, I do love London and its hecticness. And I just think it’s the most amazing city in the world. And sometimes living in it, you take it a bit for granted, because it’s all there on your doorstep. But to me it’s my home. It’s where I’ve always been. And I think it would be pretty tough for me to move away from there.

Brendon Craigie: Maybe David Beckham will give you a call. For his new football franchise in Miami.

Andrew Bloch: Maybe. I’d be there. I’d love to do [inaudible 00:41:37] He’s done a great job.

Zoe Clark: Brilliant, amazing.

Brendon Craigie: Excellent.

Zoe Clark: Thank you so much.

Brendon Craigie: Thank you Andrew.

Andrew Bloch: Bye.

Zoe Clark: Thanks for listening to Without Borders. If you like what you’ve heard, why not subscribe? And if you want to find out more about Tyto, and what we’re up to, you can find us at tytopr.com. That’s T-Y-T-O-P-R .com.

Tyto brings you Without Borders, a regular dose of inspiration for passionate communicators, courageous creatives and entrepreneurial business brains. Expect candid chats with the wisest old hands, bleeding edge innovators and left field thinkers and doers.

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